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Madigan holds nerve to send Ulster into PRO14 final after seeing off Edinburgh with last kick of the game

 

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Ulster players mob Ian Madigan after he kicked the winning penalty that defeated Edinburgh 22-19 and sent them to the Guinness PRO14 final (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

Ulster players mob Ian Madigan after he kicked the winning penalty that defeated Edinburgh 22-19 and sent them to the Guinness PRO14 final (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

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Ulster's Rob Lyttle runs in an incredible solo try as they saw off Edinburgh to reach the Guinness PRO14 final (INPHO/Ian Rutherford)

Ulster's Rob Lyttle runs in an incredible solo try as they saw off Edinburgh to reach the Guinness PRO14 final (INPHO/Ian Rutherford)

©INPHO/Ian Rutherford

Ulster players mob Ian Madigan after he kicked the winning penalty that defeated Edinburgh 22-19 and sent them to the Guinness PRO14 final (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

He was only on the pitch for eight minutes, but Ian Madigan sent Ulster into the Guinness PRO14 final by slotting two nerveless kicks in the final five minutes to down Edinburgh 22-19 at BT Murrayfield in their semi-final.

Trailing by seven with mere minutes remaining, Ulster pulled a result out of nothing, replacement hooker John Andrew going over from the back of a maul, Madigan converting from the touchline and then putting over a penalty to win.

In fact, Madigan's penalty with literally the last kick of the game was the first time Ulster had been ahead in the semi-final at all, falling behind to tries from Stuart McInally, Darcy Graham and Chris Dean only to mount an incredible comeback.

Rob Lyttle scored a phenomenal solo try to get them back into it, before Rob Herring and his replacement Andrew both went over from mauls to tie the game up at 19-19 before Madigan produced his game-winning heroics.

Dan McFarland's side will now face rivals Leinster in the final, with the game slated to be held back at Dublin's Aviva Stadium at 7.35pm next Saturday.

While, again, it wasn't the perfect display from Ulster, knockout rugby doesn't care about performances, and the team will no doubt only care about the fact that they will be going to their first final since 2013, ending a seven year drought in that regard.

For long periods it had looked like that was nothing more than a pipe dream, particularly when Stuart McInally got over for the hosts in the 13th minute, breaking off a five-metre maul and smashing his way over for the score under a surprisingly little amount of pressure.

At the other end, Ulster couldn't make their sustained spell of possession in the Edinburgh 22 count, and the two sides headed in at the interval after a half with little chances of note to talk about, with the score at 5-0.

Head coach McFarland made a switch at scrum-half, bringing off John Cooney and replacing him with Alby Mathewson to try and add a spark, but it looked as if it would be in vain when the hosts danced over for their second score.

The exceptional Duhan van der Merwe was the catalyst, jumping into the line and evading the clutches of Billy Burns to feed Graham on the flank and the winger had enough to get over for the try.

Having barely threatened the Edinburgh whitewash, it seemed as if that might be all she wrote for Ulster even though only 47 minutes had elapsed, but Lyttle all of a sudden renewed their hope with a fine solo score, somehow working his way through three defenders and under the posts.

Just as soon as they were back in it, Ulster were back under their own posts, however, as Dean restored Edinburgh's 12-point lead, the centre set over after Hamish Watson's line-break to seemingly end the tie as a contest.

But Ulster refused to give up.

Herring was the one who barreled over from the back of a maul to make it a one-score game, the hooker popping up at the last second to get the ball down over the line for the try, and then when Edinburgh's discipline let them down, Andrew did likewise from five metres out.

Madigan nervelessly slotted the touchline conversion to level the scores but, just when it seemed extra-time was on the cards, there was one final twist in the tale.

Magnus Bradbury went for an intercept on a Madigan pass, referee Frank Murphy - after initially signalling for just a scrum - awarded the penalty and the fly-half, from 45 metres out, decided the extra 30 minutes weren't needed.

Game, set, match. Ulster march on.

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Belfast Telegraph